Houma Supposed to Turn Around?

So I just found out my husband is a liar. When we entered the Intracoastal Waterway, he assured me we had left the Mississippi River permanently behind us. Well, plans change and, as it turns out, we will be heading into that blasted river once again, albeit for a very short time.

He probably didn’t mean to get my hopes up. I’m sure he was just looking out for my mental stability after we almost backed into that barge. We had exited off the Ole Miss into the Atchafalaya River and maneuvered to Morgan City to get fuel. We hadn’t had an opportunity for fuel for about 300 miles. We had been warned there was no fuel and that if you were careful you might have to beg for some off of a barge. We actually did well and weren’t in dire straits. Still we filled up. Our bigger issue was water. We had drinking water, but for some reason ran out of water for dishes and showers. We had tested our water tanks before we left and found we could go 10 days before we ran out. Why we ran out after only four is still a mystery. It was just the two of us and we tolerated each other’s stench fairly well.  I wouldn’t waiver, however, on being able to brush my teeth and wash my face twice daily. I went into this life saying I didn’t want it to be like camping and here it was…just like camping. But things happen and if we’ve learned anything, we know we have to be flexible and go with the flow (or lack thereof). It felt great when I finally got to wash my hair again! I need to take a moment to pat myself on the back at the docking for fuel. It was flawless. Mostly due to Rick’s super ability to drive right up to the pier; but I was able to jump off without harming myself (for once) and tied off quickly. I felt like a true sailor that day.

Once we got our fuel and water, we went across the river to Berwick and tied up for the night. This was a free city dock so no electric. But we were able to get a good night sleep and gather our wits. Because this area was so overrun with commercial traffic and the convergence of the river, waterway and other various channels, everybody on the water was required to “check in” and be directed by one source. Sort of an air traffic controller for the water. It was helpful to us because it was a bit nerve-wracking making our way through all those barges. Once we were ready to leave, we had to wait for a train whose tracks were on a bridge that needed to be raised for us. Then we were home free.

We made our way to Houma, LA and their Downtown Marina. Although they have slips, none were big enough for us so our spot was beside a long dock. They had both water and electric hook-ups for a mere $25/night. We sideled up to the pump out area. We’d been getting worried our tanks would be full soon, so were glad to be able to do the pump out. Our tanks are on the port (left) side of the boat. When we pulled in, the pump out station was on our starboard (right) side. We attempted to go over the bow of the boat with the pump out hose but it wouldn’t reach. We had to turn around so we were facing the entrance to the wharf.

Rick was worried the width of the wharf was too narrow for us to turn around. He devised a plan to tie a rope on the starboard side of the bow and tie it to the dock. Then he would use the engines to push the stern (back) out and spin it around so we wouldn’t hit the opposite side of the wharf. I was sure this was a baaaaaaad idea. The bow pulpit would hit against the pilings on the dock for sure, I argued. He insisted it wouldn’t so we gave it a try. It’s not often I get to say this when we have differing opinions, but I was right—it wasn’t going to work. So we regrouped. Rick handed me the hand held radio and we checked communication with each other on channel 68. We could talk with each other without others listening in. He was going to back out of the wharf, around the other docked boat, and back into the waterway. From there he’d basically do a three-point turn and back into the wharf, around the other boat and back into the spot facing out. I had to untie the line, push off, and use the radio as needed for any unforeseen issues.

Of course I was a dork with the hand held radio. I tried holding it as I untied the lines. Didn’t work. I tried using the little tie-loop-thingy to dangle it from my wrist. Nope, I was banging it into everything. I was so frazzled. Finally, I called Rick to tell him the hand held was a pain in my ass. “Well set it down,” says he. Oh. Yeah. Okay. Got him untied. Pushed off. He easily maneuvered around the other boat and was heading out. From the corner of my eye I see a barge converging on him. I broke into a run, waving my arms, SCREAMING at the top of my lungs, “STOP! There’s a barge! STOP!” I realized he couldn’t hear me—the blasted hand held was still on the ground. I began to run in the opposite direction toward the hand held. At this point the kids playing on the nearby playground and their parents were all watching. I’m sure the parents were whispering to the kids to stay away from the crazy lady. I grabbed the hand held. In my panic I couldn’t find the button I needed. I glanced up and saw Rick headed toward me as I saw the barge slip past behind him. He was safe. We weren’t turned around, but he was safe. Phew. The hand held crackled to life as Rick said, “Screw it. I’m in the middle of the channel I’m just going to spin it. Watch to see I don’t hit the pier.” And just like downtown as they say, he spun it around and backed up to the pier where I grabbed it and tied it off.

Once we pumped out we needed to move further down so others could get to the pump out, if needed. It wasn’t far, so we decide to walk it down rather than restarting the engines. For a 50,000-pound boat It moves fairly easily and we had zero problems. The area was lovely. The marina sits in the middle of a park (and they even have swings—yay!). Within walking distance, we had a laundromat, mini-mart, restaurants, and a hospital (just in case). The Intracoastal Waterway, where we almost collided with the barge is busy with tugs pushing their loads around the clock and the park is continually filled with people enjoying it.

We still want to spend some time in New Orleans and we would like to land in a working marina to have the water tank checked. So, as I said previously, our plans, they are a changin’. You’ll know when I know.

1 thought on “Houma Supposed to Turn Around?”

  1. 🍷You are getting to be great sailors by living through your harrowing situations. Pretty soon you will not get in a frenzy when the unexpected occurs, you will sail through with confidence.

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